Here’s a rarity in my part of the world… an honest to goodness Singaporean movie. I order lots and lots of Thai films out of Singapore (Yes.. yes… that pesky subtitle thingee… don’t let me get started on THAT rant again… Hehehehe!!) but I can honestly say I’ve only ever snagged a couple of their local efforts over the years. Since you all know I’m just goofy for ghost stories, how could I not take a chance on something titled “Where Got Ghost?”….
It’s a horror anthology by local Singaporean writer/director Jack Neo and our synopsis goes as follows: “Every year on the Lunar 7th month is the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival and Singaporeans with Chinese heritage and background will be celebrating with their beloved family members that have passed away. Most common methods are burning paper money and offering food for their deceased family members. “Where Got Ghost” is a typical Singaporean horror-comedy movie that is divided into three stories, each with some thrills, some chills and quite a few laughs along the way…”
How did it stack up for me as a movie watching experience? Was it as charming as some Chinese ghost comedies? Or did they go with the toilet humor route that most Thai and Indonesian films like to go? (I admit I sorta expected the latter might just be the ticket here….. not that there’s a problem with that, mind you….Hehehehe!)
I guess we’re all about to find out, so you are certainly gonna want to “Read On” and see!
Admittedly I’m a bit of a novice on the topic of Singaporean cinema… I’ve only seen just a couple over the years, but they always strike me as a sort of cross between Chinese and Malay films (and I’m usually somewhat lost trying to follow Malay popular humor….) so I was hoping this one would stick close to the theme of the Hungry Ghost festival which I’m all up to speed on. Thankfully… it did.
Unfortunately, “Where Got Ghost?” bases much of its humor in some very specifically Singaporean situations and day to day ideas such as their obsession with local lotteries. That and some “play on word” jokes based on the differences between the Chinese language and the local Singaporean dialect went completely over my head…. they just didn’t come across when translated into English subtitled form. Without any grasp of these “in jokes” much of the humor sorts fails an audience from elsewhere in the world…. at least they did for me. Luckily there are no shortage of basic universal physical humor to fill in the blanks.
The first of the three stories, “Roadside Got Ghost”, concerns three scoundrels, Cai, and his lackeys Fu and Shou, who devise a new lottery scam. Realizing the limited number of possible winning numbers in a popular lottery, they decide to make random calls to people, promising each of them that the lucky numbers for winning are theirs courtesy of the “God of Wealth”. Those who win the lottery are asked to pay 20% “offering” to Cai to show their gratitude. Those who try to avoid paying, become the victims of mysterious “calamities” designed to scare them into complying. This works so well that soon the three set themselves up up a company to expand their scam into new markets outside Singapore. Then Cai himself receives a phone call. The caller gives Cai the same offer he’s been making to his victims…. offering the winning numbers to the lottery for a percentage of the winnings. Believing it to be another scam artist trying to move in on their idea, Cai ignores the call, but then tries his luck with the given number anyway out of boredom. Surprisingly, he wins, and wins big. While out celebrating his luck, a strange pale faced man confronts him asking why didn’t he pay the commission. Cai laughs at him and refuses to pay,the man anything telling him to get lost. The ominous stranger then tells Cai that he will be killed by a car as punishment for his insult. Fu and Shou are worried, but Cai laughs off the whole thing and runs out into the middle of the road, daring the curse to strike. Naturally it does, and Cai is crushed by a car that smashes through the retaining wall of the overpass above him. As Cai is dying it is revealed that an angry spirit from who Fu and Shou stole offerings from in Cai’s name has returned to take her revenge. Never steal from the dead….. a lesson Cai, Fu and Shou will never forget.
The second story, “Forest Got Ghost”, tells the story of Nan and Lei, two lazy city dwellers who have become unlucky enough to be forced to take their compulsory army reserve training during the unlucky 7th month. Worse… they have to complete a map navigation exercise through the jungle near a hill widely regarded to be haunted. Warned about the dangers of the jungle, the none-the-less get lost and decide to take a shortcut to their destination despite warnings to stick to their instructed route. The two malingerers soon find out why they were warned…. a “red dress spirit” haunts the area… and soon it’s chasing them through the jungle scaring them silly. Eventually they encounter Yin Yin, a local woman who lives alone in a creepy house waaaay out in the forest. Seeking some shelter, they accept her invitation to stay overnight…. only to become the victims of her and her sister, the “red dress spirit”…. exchanging places with them in death to haunt this part of the jungle till some other unlucky fool is killed to allow them to leave.
The third and final tale, “House Got Ghost”, is the most comedic of the three and concerns a family, haunted in strange and bizarre fashion by their late mother. (Strangest among these…. her constant bothering of one son to find her the favorite “Mickey Mouse bra”…. try explaining THAT one to an exorcist!!) What seems her failings to provide her living relatives with luck due to an in auspicious death, leads to a series of weird encounters that nearly force her family to abandon her funeral plaque to a remote temple is in reality, a lesson in humility as the family finally learns that she has been protecting them from disaster all along from beyond the grave. One should always honor one’s ancestors…..
So… how was this one? Well… as ghost stories go, these weren’t particularly scary… and as comedy, not particularly funny either. Much of the special effects are digital… almost painfully so…. and lack the charm of practical effects, no matter ho obviously fake and cheesy such effects might be. The acting is alright, but no one character springs out to make their face stick in my mind forever. All in all, it’s a competently made film, just not a great one.
Neko can only give “Where Got Ghost?” a meager 3 “Meows” out of 5….. and that’s being generous. It’s not bad enough to put this lil’ Catgirl off Singaporean films forever, but it doesn’t make me want to run out and hunt more down either. Thank goodness they still do all that great subtitling of Thai stuff, so at least I’ll keep peeking in and who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise me next time…..
So… a Trailer you ask? Yep…. and here it is for your viewing pleasure!